Ten years ago, a young friend gave me this comic strip from our Sunday newspaper:
Charles Schulz astutely captured the human/beagle condition of perfectionism. My friend gave me the comic strip as a form of intervention for my perfectionism disorder. I only recognized her motives the other night when I heard my husband arrive home from work. I quickly changed my computer screen, so he wouldn’t see that I editing the same 20-word page I was revising when he left that morning. My reflexes weren’t quite fast enough and I couldn’t make a poker face to save my soul, so I’m sure he caught me. It didn’t help that my eyebrows hung over my head and “busted” flashed in neon on my forehead as he kissed it. Now, he probably thinks I have a different computer-related disorder.
For writers, perfectionism will be the death of our work. Certainly, we should strive for quality, but the fear of making a mistake can lead to paralysis — or success at completing absolutely nothing. Here are my signs.
- I’ve dreamt about writing books all of my life.
- I’ve thought about writing books all of my life.
- I’ve talked about writing books all of my life.
- I started writing a book at age 25.
- I stopped writing a book at age 25.
- I started writing a book at age 30.
- I stopped writing a book at age 30.
- I started writing a book at age 35.
- I stopped writing a book at age 35.
- I started writing a book at age…well, you can see a trend here…
Living with a perfectionist is probably even harder than being one. My family has heard me talking about my dream for too long. Now they just sigh, “that’s nice” with that glazed look, like I get when Bertha, the nursing home resident, tells me about her hemorrhoid problems for the 2,749th time.
If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, save this cartoon as a background image on your computer. The first step to recovery: make a decision, for goodness sake!
So what’ll it be? “The” or “It”?